Character: When it transforms from something you DO to something you ARE!
I think most of our parents know what is happening here in karate. The simplest way I can put it is:
Words --> Thoughts --> Habits --> Character --> Identity
This is the progression of character development.
There is a question I like to use. When a student is work harding or going above or beyond in their behavior or attitude I will ask in a spirited way "John, why to do you do that?!" The answer I expect is "I don't know, Sir!" This is the perfect answer because they no longer even know why they do what they do. They do it because it has become their identity. They do it because it is just who they are.
You know when your child has reached the last two steps in the character development process when something they DO transforms into something they ARE.
Nothing illustrates this better than a real life story, especially when it involves one of our students. Below is a wonderful example of when your character becomes your identity.
Here is the email from a teacher to our karate mom about her son Joey:
Good morning ,
I wanted to make you aware of a conversation Joey and I had this morning on the way to school.
I know this was an issue last year, and I know Susan can be hard to handle:)
He said two things:
1. Kids are being mean to Susan.
2. Kids are sometimes mad at him for being her friend, but he says she needs a friend.
So I asked him questions to get details. I asked how they are being mean to her. He says they use harsh and unkind voices. I asked if they ever said mean or hurtful things, he said not really. They just are unkind in the way they speak, and it sounds as if they don't include her in things. Again, I know Susan's personality, she's a tough one to include sometimes. He did say ____, ______ and _______ are kind to her.
About the kids getting mad at Joey. I asked him if they are ever unkind to him, and he said no. It sounds like they just make comments about why he is her friend. He said everyone needs friends and if no one will be her friend, he always will.
I explained to him that this makes him a hero. He was so humble, he does not feel this way at all. I thanked him for his courage to stand up for Susan and for standing up to his friends. He has the perfect personality for this because it is REALLY hard to not like Joey. He really acted like it was no big deal, that this is just the right thing to do. Needless to say, I was in tears after I dropped him off. God has blessed this young man with a heart that I just can't describe.
Sensei, I copied you on this email because I know the theme this month is standing up for yourself and others. I think this shows you are making an impact on him.
Bless you both, and have a great day.
Here is my response:
Thank you so much for sharing this with me.
Gosh, what can I say? Joey is truly living the current lesson and what it means to be a black belt in karate.
Karate has never been about punching and kicking. It in essence, is about exactly what our current training theme is right now - “I always stand up for myself and others!” Once you have the courage and strength (physically, but even more, emotionally) to stand up for yourself, you cannot help but stand up for others.
Here may be the most powerful thing for you as a parent. If I asked Joey “Why are you doing this?” I think you know the answer I am looking for. It is “I don’t know?” That is because this has gone from something he does to something he is. It is going from an act of kindness to becoming his identity. He is right. He is not a hero in his eyes. He is just being Joey.
So good on you. As a parents this should make you so proud.
Joey is exactly the kind of young man we need in our middle schools and high schools. One teens can change their school. They can change the world.
(*Hey, if I change the names, can I share this powerful story with your fellow dojo parents? Nothing beats a real life story.)